Category Archives: Communicate clearly

Tell your story to connect with your audience

Have you ever attended a presentation that put you to sleep? (Maybe one of your presentations had that effect!) Or, how about the presentation that all but slipped your mind by the following day?

A presentation can fail for a number of reasons. One cause is a lack of stories. Good stories are powerful tools, noted Rob Biesenbach during this month’s Milwaukee PRSA meeting.

Rob BiesenbachBiesenbach, who owns Rob Biesenbach LLC, kicked off his presentation with a few stories of his own. A long-time Chicago resident, Biesenbach has “commuted” to Milwaukee at least 150 times over the years. He has also traveled around Wisconsin. He learned to ski in the state, observed the infamous goats atop Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, and got married in Lake Geneva.

As a result, we in the audience developed a connection to Biesenbach. Which is one of his points. “Story telling is one of the most powerful forms of communication,” Biesenbach says. “It breaks down barriers.”

Our brains are naturally receptive to stories, Biesenbach says. Research has shown that 63% of an audience will remember stories told during a presentation, while only 5% will recall the stats that were provided.

Stories work because they:

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Important reminders of telephone etiquette

how to speak clearly by phone, phone etiquette tips, telephone etiquetteSpeaking clearly is important all times. We accept that in business settings. We sometimes let our guard down, though, during private conversations. Of course, some of that is acceptable. After all, no one is perfect and no one expects perfection from others.

There is a fine line between casual and sloppy conversation. If you want to be–and remain–a polished speaker, you should practice the fundamentals in every instance. Some people think they can switch on the communication skills when needed (say, for a business presentation). That’s not as simple as it seems. Speaking clearly when necessary becomes easier when you commit to speaking clearly all the time.

Consider your phone or Skype calls, social gatherings, and other private events. Every time you open your mouth to say something, use the opportunity to practice what you’ve been taught. Eventually the principles become second nature, and you’re speaking well in all circumstances.

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Public speaking tip: Provide your own intro

Public speaking training: Provide your own introduction.

Ensure a proper introduction by writing your intro. Too many speakers simply hand the host a thick bio or multi-page résumé. The person has to sift through all that material–on the spot–to get to the relevant information. Worse, the person reads all of it, wasting valuable time and boring your audience to tears. (I once suffered through a nearly 5-minute introduction!)

Write a brief intro that gets to the relevant facts. Keep to about 90 seconds, as you can say a lot in that amount of time. Mention your current position and firm, touch on the relevant history, and offer a theme or takeaway along with the title. By providing an intro, you get to properly set the stage for your presentation.

Provide your intro to the meeting host ahead of time so the person has time to review it. (Another hint: type in large font – 14 or 16 point – so the host doesn’t have any trouble reading your copy.)

Bottom line: Always provide your own intro.

For additional training, see “5 tips to keep your presentation on time” and “Presentation tip: Don’t let gaffes trip you up.”

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Writing tips 4: Refresher on fundamentals

writing tip, daily writing tip, writing classes, writing jobsA lot has been said and written about social media and its effects on our culture. I imagine someone could write fat book on the subject. (Perhaps someone already has!) As a writer, I am especially sensitive to how the written word is conveyed. One thing I can say for certain is that overall, writing on social media leaves a lot to be desired.

I don’t know why this is. It appears that most people feel they don’t need to write well. Others probably just don’t know they are making mistakes. Either way, their writing skills–or lack thereof–leave a lasting impression. And that impression is not necessarily a good one.

This is next in a series of blog posts designed to review some of the common writing errors. These are actual examples of poor writing that I have seen or received. Most were on Facebook, but others came to me in emails. Each offers errors in one or more areas:

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Writing tips 3: Refresher on some fundamentals

writing tip, daily writing tip, writing classes, writing jobsWriting well is not difficult. You don’t need a degree in English to compose sentences that get your message across properly. (Of course, one good way to improve your writing skills is to take a writing course.) The types of mistakes I see frequently involve just a handful of principles. They include:


– Capitalization

– Spelling

– Grammar, word usage

– Punctuation

Unfortunately, these mistakes appear in blog and social media posts along with emails. Meaning, messages often used for business. That’s critical, because sloppy writing reflects poorly on the person and business. If the writer spent a few moments proofing the material, he or she would most likely correct these errors.

This is the third installment in my series. You can read the other two here.

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